Rajiv Gandhi’s Inaugural address to the seminar on “Investment Opportunities in Electronics”, organised by the All India Manufacturers Organisation, New Delhi, 21 February 1985. Reproduced from “Rajiv Gandhi Selected Speeches and Writings, Vol. 1” as part of my series Remembering Rajiv Gandhi through his historic speeches. For more of his speeches click on the tags below.
Electronics is really like the nervous system of a nation. As a nation evolves that nervous system must evolve with it, just as it evolved with the species. In the earliest species, there were barely 250 odd nerve-junctions. The humans have 15 billion odd nerve-junctions. We need a similar network in our country if India is to progress, move ahead and keep up with the world. We missed one bus with the industrial revolution. A sudden boost in muscle power and we were not able to catch up for 300 years. We didn’t jump on the second bus on time the electronic revolution or computer revolution. Now we might have to run behind it to catch up and I think we are capable of doing so.
Although electronics is an industry on its own, it really must be used to supplement all other industries, updating our older industry, making it more productive, making it more competitive, and really bringing it up to world standards. Today electronics has permeated just about every field—industry, education, of course defence, information handling. There is no place where you do not have electronics. India is still lagging far behind. I was just told that on an average you have to dial twelve times before you can get through. So, there are these problems, and we have to get rid of these problems.
You mentioned sir, about problems with Government policy, especially taxation and duties. We have been looking at these for the past couple of years. We came out with a completely new package for the electronics industry some months ago, and I think you will like the package that we shall present you in the next Session of Parliament. But I should like to point out that many of the concessions that we gave, many of the reductions in controls, have not been passed on to the consumers in the way that they should have been. The industry has not been as dynamic as it should have been. Well, we shall give you another chance. If it does not work, we shall have to think of prodding a little harder, not by force but by some other means. I feel, for example, that protection should be of only one sort, preferably only fiscal protection and not licence protection, which means that you will have to be more efficient. You will have to compete. You have mentioned import duties, but import duties go together with import protection, and there again we have preferably to have only one.
To get electronics really moving in India, we have to go down to the other end of the chain. We are mostly talking about manufacturing and selling. We have to go to the other end and produce enough people who will be able to deal with the equipment that you are about to produce, which means a turn-around in our education system. We need many more institutes such as the ITIs, but oriented and run in a much more professional manner, oriented towards more modern fields of technology. We need to really develop a mentality in our people of using modern methods.
And somewhere along the line in stressing equality and equal rights, we have gone a little off-the-track and we have promoted only mediocrity. We have to look at this and once again bring excellence out, lift excellence up and not try to pull excellence down to make everybody equal and mediocre. We shall be looking at this aspect, with regard to the education system, and I hope that this will, over a long term, help industry to develop and expand.
One of the complaints was the telecommunication system. We have been looking at this sector and I think that in the coming policies which will be put before you, maybe a month from now, you will find that we have tried within our resource constraints to do something for telecommunications. We are already looking at the licensing policy; much of what you have said we have already done. It will take some time to get to you. But, on most of it, action has been taken pre-empting your thoughts.
Now to the banking sector. Maybe, the less said about it the better. We have not had the time to look at it yet, because the last couple of months have been extremely rushed. I think in the coming months we shall take a deep look at it and it does need a thorough overhaul. Really, what is needed is much more electronics in banking.
Electronics in India has been developed by the small-scale sector and by the public sector. We have got a very large gap in between. We would like to fill this gap. But while filling this gap we shall try and see that the present industry is protected, not completely but to some extent. We shall in the coming months see that many of the procedural problems that you have raised are cleared. But as we develop new policies, as we move ahead, we shall have to feel our way and get proper feedback from you. Because every step we take will raise new problems, and we would like to get quick feedbacks so that we can take quick action to correct them. You will find this Government moving faster than you are moving. The problem will not be with Government constraints or Government restrictions, or the time taken by Government but with “Can you keep up with what we are doing?”